I checked a book out of the library titled The Secret Lives of Hoarders, written by Matt Paxton, one of the organized cleaning experts on A&E's "Hoarders." I wanted to read it partly out of sheer curiosity, but also because I know someone suspected to be a hoarder (I'll call her Helga) and I wanted to understand her.
Ugh. If you ever want to kill your appetite, read this book! *shudder* The following excerpt made me gag. Warning: do not read if you have a squeamish stomach.
"... She guessed that her refrigerator hadn't been opened in sixteen years--there was too much clutter stacked up in front of it. As soon as we cracked it open, two of my workers started vomiting.
"The bins and drawers were full of dark liquid and two inches of green black muck that had once been lettuce. We found black eggs, which at first we thought were carved stone eggs. The food was so moldy that it had all grown together into one gnarly mess" (p. 26, italics added).
Oh. my. goodness.
Paxton mentions that most hoarders (especially in advanced stages) are obese because they live on junk food due to the inability to access their kitchens for cooking. Thankfully, that is not the case for Helga... yet. She still cooks, and actually prepares beautiful, fairly healthy, meals. (But good luck finding a clean plate or a place to sit.)
And now, after reading the book, I am worried about Helga's future. The author states that hoarding becomes increasingly worse until the person seeks help. Helga used to be somewhat meticulous in housekeeping and organization. I loved visiting her home. But over the past twenty years I've seen her house swell with clutter and stuff she cannot part with. When I travel to her town, I can no longer spend the night at her place since the spare bedrooms are filled to the brim. If this continues, what will her health and living conditions be like in another twenty years?
At this point Helga doesn't recognize the severity of the problem, and gets angry if anyone broaches the subject. It's like that for any addiction. We have to reach a point of wanting change before we can start a path to better health.